We had our first Teaching for Black Lives study group today and I am overwhelmed with gratitude! The group gives staff a tangible way to connect with a profound resource and to take action “on the ground” to make Black lives matter in school. Participation was 100% and everyone was enthusiastically present in a time when so many educators and staff are overwhelmed by the world in general. Thank you for providing this incredible opportunity — Leslie Ringler, Tempe, Arizona
We’ve heard similar comments from our contacts in Teaching for Black Lives teacher study groups across the United States. Launched in September of 2020 by the Zinn Education Project, 28 groups were selected from close to 150 applications.
Our goal is to support teachers as they grapple with how to teach for Black lives in the face of the COVID pandemic this year and the ongoing pandemic of institutionalized racism. The groups selected in the fall of 2020 are in the following cities.
Bronx, New York
Brooklyn, New York (2)
Chicago Illinois (2)
Durham, North Carolina
East Orange, New Jersey
Los Angeles, California
St. Paul, Minnesota (2)
While spread across the United States, we selected seven from the state of Washington, the home base of the campaign funders. The generous support comes from Doug and Tara Baldwin, Braden Bishop, the Carroll Family Fund, Tricia Davis and Ben Haggerty (aka Macklemore), Zach Quillen, the Seahawks Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund, Ralph Lauren, and Bobby Wagner.
The teacher study groups vary in their focus and set their own goals, agenda, and schedule according to their local needs. One is examining their school’s discipline system with the goal of transitioning to a restorative justice approach; another is asking the question, “What does it mean to teach for Black lives in a majority new-immigrant and Latinx community?” A group in Los Angeles is creating Black-centered curriculum for schools, “that highlights the long Civil Rights Movement and ties into movements today.” A number of groups focus on the participants’ classroom practice. A group in Bellingham explained,
Our goal is for educators to feel more comfortable conversing with and supporting our students in their own learning and activism around racism, bigotry, and prejudice. Participants will be expected to begin the process of weaving in diverse voices throughout their lessons and units so students see themselves in what is being studied and investigated. This work will be shared with our greater school community and hopefully, another study group will be born.
Each participant in a study group receives the Rethinking Schools book Teaching for Black Lives and a subscription to Rethinking Schools magazine. In addition, they receive year-long support from a Zinn Education Project team member, a guest presentation by a Teaching for Black Lives editor or people’s historian, and are connected to a network of activist teachers. As soon as we raise more funds, we will accept and support more study groups and build this exciting network. In the meantime, we’ll be sharing approaches used by the groups and additional resources — such as a study guide for Teaching for Black Lives — that teachers can use to launch their own activist learning communities.